Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ★★1/2

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    "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is the much-anticipated sequel to the original film that debuted in 2012, and it is the second installment in a series based off the novels written by Suzanne Collins. With direction by Francis Lawrence, the events of this film take place exactly one year after the first Hunger Games, which featured our most beloved heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

    "Catching Fire" begins with a paranoid and quite shaken Katniss Everdeen, who is hunting in the nearby woods of her District 12 home. It becomes evident that she is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the events that took place in last year's Hunger Games. We then proceed to view the conditions that she has been living in as well. She lives twenty-five feet away from her male counterpart, and "lover," Peeta Mellark, albeit in separate homes. Also, she still seems to be very close with her longtime friend, Gale Hawthorne.

    Since they won the 74th Annual Hunger Games, it is tradition for the victors to go on a victory tour and become mentors to the contestants of this year's games. With this victory tour just hours away, an unexpected visit from President Coriolanus Snow startles Katniss and the plot. He reiterates how disappointed he was with the outcome of last year's games and the "hope" that she has suddenly given to the rebellion. This particular event will fuel the storyline and the outcome of the film's events.

     The acting in this film is mediocre at best. The essential actors and actresses from the first film all reprise their roles for this sequel. Josh Hutcherson continues his role as Peeta Mellark, the co-winner of the previous year's games. He is still very much in love with Katniss and still presents himself as the "All-American Boy." Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathya previous Hunger Games victor and mentor to Katniss and Peeta. Sadly, this character is completely one-dimensional. In fact, it seems as if Abernathy's only care is alcoholism, that is, of course, until the story requires him to defend his young apprentices. The only bright spots are the appearances of Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Sutherland reprises his role as President Snow and is absolutely brilliant in his limited screen-time. Hoffman takes over the role of the newest "game maker" and also displays flashes of brilliance. It is truly a shame that these two actors did not receive more time on-screen.

    Last, and certainly not least, is Jennifer Lawrence, who continues her role of Katniss Everdeen. Now, there is much critical acclaim for Lawrence and her performance here; however, I will not be fooled by all of the so-called "hoopla." Lawrence's performance is entirely flat and unmotivated; she is melodramatic in most scenes, which doesn't help the story of the book translate to film smoothly. For example, in a scene where Katniss is suffering from nightmares, due to PTSD, she asks Peeta to sleep with her and to comfort her. The delivery of her lines constitute promiscuity, and it truly throws off the dynamic of her character.

    Also, there is a continuity issue with regard to her PTSD. Early on in the picture, she seems very startled and even has horrid flashbacks to a killing in the previous games, which throws off her use of the bow and arrow. However, the next day she is flinging arrows at targets as if she was miraculously cured. Perhaps she understood the seriousness of the situation and knew that she needed to take her skills to the next level. A thirty-second monologue would have sufficed in showing that.

    Diehard "Hunger Games" fans will not need this review to know that they love this picture. They will cherish it because it is the only adaptation of the novels, and I can respect that. However, as a film critic, I will not let "Catching Fire" have a free pass. I genuinely enjoyed the first film and had high expectations for the sequel. Yet, the ending to this film is nothing short of atrocious. I literally thought to myself as the film ended: Is that it? Of course, they purposely left a cliffhanger ending to assure us that there would be another film or films, but we already knew that.

    This franchise direly needs to take notes from a master at translating novels to film, and that would be Peter Jackson and the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy. I understand that the book leaves the events in the same fashion; however, when it comes to the medium of film, there has to be an ending scene that is sufficient in summarizing the movie. It must provide the viewer with something to take home; maybe even a theme of some sort. Instead, I just went home disappointed and seventeen dollars lighter in the pocket.

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